Press Releases – Great Lake Maritime Task Force
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Stay up-to-date with the latest news, developments and information pertaining to the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force, the maritime industry and other related topics.

Great Lakes Ships Lose a Month Due to Lack of Icebreakers

CLEVELAND, OHIO (May 12, 2022) – The ice season is over on the Great Lakes but the impacts of insufficient Coast Guard icebreaking linger.  With a defined shipping season of 10-months, due to the closure of the navigational locks in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan which connect Lake Superior and the iron ore mines to the steel mills in the southern lakes, delays to the maritime supply chain have tremendous impacts.

During this year’s ice season, the U.S.-flag Great Lakes shipping industry lost the equivalent of a month due to delays in ice covered waters.  1.645 million tons of cargo carrying capacity was delayed for 679.5 hours or 28 days due to ice conditions on Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, and in Green Bay and a lack of Coast Guard icebreakers to meet the needs of commerce.

“It amazes me that a cargo container stuck in Chesapeake Bay or in the Suez Canal gets worldwide attention and that happens on the Great Lakes every year.  The loss of one day of shipping is tremendous, but a month is devasting.  Imagine if highways in the northern states didn’t have enough snowplows to keep traffic moving during frequent winter storms and sat on the road for a month…it is unacceptable,” stated Jim Weakley, President of the Great Maritime Task Force.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), ice conditions this past winter were “average” to “slightly below average” during the bulk of the icebreaking period.  Several ships, including some Canadian-flag lakers, faced perilous journeys through ice infested waters that nearly forced a vessel aground in the Straits of Mackinac and shutdown waterways.  At one point several vessels were stuck in eastern Lake Superior for more than three days.  With an aging fleet of six 40-year-old small icebreaking tugs and only one heavy icebreaker the U.S. Coast Guard couldn’t keep up.  Multiple vessels were shoved near the edge of the navigational channels as ice floes over a foot thick shifted which lasted up until mid-April.  At the beginning of the ice season the U.S. Coast Guard lost five icebreakers to engineering casualties, just when they were needed most.

“The Coast Guard needs more icebreakers on the Fourth Sea Coast.  We have 237,000 jobs depending on a reliable Great Lakes Navigation System.  In addition, our sailors deserve to feel safe navigating our waterways regardless of the time of year,” stated John D. Baker, International Longshoremen’s Association and Vice President of the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force.

While progress fixing the icebreaking issue has been slow, it is moving forward thanks to key Great Lakes Senators and Congressional Representatives.  Over the past year both the current Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard and the nominee to replace him testified before the Senate Commerce Committee acknowledging the need for another heavy Great Lakes icebreaker.  In addition, the Great Lakes Winter Commerce Act has passed the House in the Coast Guard Authorization Bill which authorizes full funding for the new icebreaker, mandates transparent and accurate performance measures, and commissions a study by the Government Accountability Office to examine the impacts and needs for additional U.S. Coast Guard icebreakers on the Great Lakes.

About Great Lakes Maritime Task Force

The Great Lakes Maritime Task Force, with 74 members, is the largest coalition to speak for the Great Lakes Navigation System.  Advocating for domestic and international shipping, its members represent labor and management from U.S.-flag vessel operators, shipboard and longshore unions, port authorities, cargo shippers, terminal operators, shipyards, and other Great Lakes interests. The Great Lakes commercial maritime industry supports more than 147,000 American jobs in eight Great Lakes states and generates more than $25 billion in economic activity.

Lack of Coast Guard Icebreaking Disrupts Supply Chain and Delays Soo Lock Dewatering

Great Lakes Maritime Task Force Annual Report

Today the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force (GLMTF) released their annual report for 2021. The report includes some significant accomplishments advanced by GLMTF members over the past few years to include progress on the Great Lakes dredging crisis, efficient funding of the new large navigational lock in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and pending legislation to improve U.S. Coast Guard icebreaking performance measures along with funding for a new heavy Great Lakes icebreaker.

 

U.S. Senator Gary Peters 2021 Legislator of the Year 

Today the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force (GLMTF) recognized the tremendous work done by Michigan U.S. Senator Gary Peters for protecting and advancing the Great Lakes Navigation System. “The Great Lakes are more than just an economic engine and ecological treasure: they are simply in our DNA as Michiganders,” said Senator Peters. “It’s critical we do everything in our power to protect and preserve the Great Lakes for future generations – and that’s always been my focus. I’m deeply honored to have earned this distinction and am thankful to have excellent partners like the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force that work tirelessly to improve the lives of Michiganders.”

House Transportation Committee Funds Key Great Lakes Projects

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Tuesday approved $1 billion for U.S. Coast Guard shore side infrastructure nationwide and $350 million for a heavy Great Lakes icebreaker as part of its budget reconciliation bill, an action that the Great Lake Maritime Task Force (GLMTF) called “great news for the Great Lakes.”

The GLMTF described the heavy Great Lakes icebreaker as desperately needed and expects that a portion of the infrastructure funds will go to good use replacing and repairing crumbling Great Lakes search and rescue stations and other USCG facilities that are used to protect Great Lakes ports and waterways.